Spring has sprung! Ok, well it has for most of us. (Sorry to those of you in the tundra-like states. Hang in there, it’s coming.)

I love this time of year! It feels so good to get outside after being cooped up all winter. Plus, I love watching things come to life. Green grass, buds on trees… It’s so refreshing, isn’t it? 

I clicked a link from a tweet the other day and stumbled down a rabbit hole that led me to Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences. He’s opposed to labeling learning to a certain intelligence but identifies them to empower learners. He states that it allows them to process information in a way that make sense to them. So what are the 8 multiple intelligences? Test your memory – and then click below to see the answer.
Do you know all 8?
Click here to see!
I feel like as a teacher I was doing things to connect to some of these intelligences but I needed to read more about naturalistic intelligence. Interestingly enough, he added that one to the original seven over a decade later. What is it exactly? I love animals and I think glamping is fun… am I a naturalistic learner?


Here’s what I found about naturalistic learners:

  • They are aware of their surroundings
  • They love to be outside and get their hands dirty
  • They like to learn about living things like plants and animals 
  • They are interested in weather related events and season changes  
  • They are quick to notice details and differences in clouds, leaves, and animals
  • They are likely to be motivated to take action against pollution or actions that hurt the environment
  • They usually enjoy science class
How can we include touches of nature in language learning? What experiences would inspire naturalistic learners?

Here are a few examples…

This world language program developed their curriculum to support the signature STEM strand of the school. Nathan and Dora started a raised bed garden on the playground to support and link learning to other core classes.
They assign all grade levels different responsibilities to give them ownership and engagement with the space.  
K- started seedlings indoors and monitored growth
1st grade – prepared the soil 
2nd grade French – planted lavender and herbes de Provence

2nd grade Spanish – planted salsa garden (chiles, onions, tomatoes, cilantro) 

3rd grade French – planted sunflowers

3rd grade Spanish – planted marigolds

4th grade – made target language signs to label each plant
5th grade – designed and made concrete stepping stones with mosaic designs inspired by the target culture

*All grades took turns watering and weeding. They even have camps take turns during the summer months. 

In the fall, various grade levels helped with the harvest. Some French students made lavender sachets and others harvested herbs, ground them, and packaged their Herbes de Provence to go home. They also harvested sunflower seeds to be used during the winter to feed the birds that visit campus.  

Spanish students made salsa and sampled it, took jars home. In October, students also harvested marigolds to be featured in the Día de los Muertos.

Throughout the program students learn about seeds and their needs to grow, the plant life cycle, and the significance of these plants in their target cultures. Target language + science + hands on + culture…


AMAZING WORK, Nathan and Dora!! 

 In addition to being a language teacher, Jahdai’s other role at his school is “Garden Manager” for YUGI (Youth Urban Gardening Internship). That’s right… internship (and it is PAID)! He and fellow science teacher, Heather Peterson, run YUGI with the help of a grant and it is making a big impact each year. Students can work during the spring, summer, and fall to grow fresh organic produce in the school’s garden. Tomatoes, broccoli, lettuces… you name it and they grow it. They get to take the food home and they share extras with neighbors around the school. They learn about science, nutrition, cooking, and do lots of problem solving throughout the hands-on internship. (If you have your own garden, you know alllllll about problem solving.) Plus, they have to open a bank account and set up automatic deposit to get their paychecks – LIFE skills. 
While the internship isn’t directly related to his class, he talks about it in the target language with his classes. He has had several students join the program over the years, along with several native Spanish speakers. This gives him lots of opportunities to use the language with students from his school OUTSIDE of class while building relationships and sharing his passion for gardens and nature. 

You INSPIRE us, Jahdai!

Raquel Parra is a Spanish teacher at Concordia International School in Shanghai, China and she shared these photos of their school’s rooftop garden. Even urban schools in the biggest cities can add green space for more opportunities for naturalistic learners.
How can we include touches of nature in language learning? What experiences would inspire naturalistic learners?

Talk about animal migrations (hummingbirds, butterflies, whales) and what target culture countries do to help animals (like Julie does here)

Start a window sill mini garden before your food unit – so they can see/smell/taste cilantro and learn why it’s so key for good salsa

Feed birds (especially in the winter) – you’ll find lots of return visitors so name them and talk about them in the TL

When you talk about the environment, talk about how to help reuse and recycle around the school

Learn about parks, oceans, and crazy weather from around the world and compare it to home 

Field trip OUTSIDE! Scavenger hunt? Free read outside? Sidewalk chalk written conversations?

The possibilities are endless, but like most things, you gotta be intentional! 


Share YOUR garden, idea, or dream lesson below to inspire others!  


  1. Kat

    I teach in a very urban high school. We are not allowed to take the kids outside, but I started a windowsill garden. About 2/3 of my students have a pot (they decided if they wanted one–not part of Spanish class, just an add-on) and they could choose between jalapenos and miniature tomatoes. We have a 48% chronic absenteeism rate, and some of them are coming to my class more because they’re concerned about their plant. I’ve found that several of my students who hung out in the hallway until the very last minute come in to class a lot earlier so that they can water their plant and ask me questions about them– most have never seen a vegetable plant growing and have no clue where the tomato or jalapeno grows from. I am definitely a big believer in naturalistic intelligence!

    • Megan Smith

      Thanks so much for sharing. I love this! Some kids don’t know they love growing something because they’ve never had the chance. I’m so glad you gave them it! Good job!

    • Megan Smith

      In fact, I’d like to add you to this post – are you interested?


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